Breakfast Room Plans: Black Is Out, Light & Neutral Is In (But It Wont’ Be Boring!!)

Well, black walls are no longer an option for my breakfast room.  Long story short, I’ve been waffling back and forth on the stencil idea for a while now, but I was still full steam ahead on the black walls idea.  But this weekend, as my mom and I were standing in Home Depot looking at paint samples for my niece’s bedroom, she told me that she hated the idea of black walls in that room.  She’s not opposed to black walls in general.  She’s just opposed to them in that room, next to my beautiful green kitchen cabinets.  I’m pretty sure her words were that the black walls in the breakfast room would “suck the life” out of my kitchen…or something like that.  😀

I value my mom’s opinion, so I went home and talked to Matt about it.  I’ve been thinking for two months now that I had gotten him on board with the idea.  As it turns out, I hadn’t.  He hated the idea as well, but was willing to keep his mouth shut so that I could have what I wanted.  *Sigh*  He’s so good to me, but I don’t want to take advantage of that and just completely disregard his thoughts.  He so seldom has an opinion about the house, so when he does have an opinion, I need to listen.

So it was back to the drawing board.  I needed light, bright, and neutral.  But I didn’t want boring and plain.  So I turned to my main sources…Pinterest and Houzz.  And within minutes, I found exactly what I want.

beautiful neutral walls - Thibault Etosha wallpaper combined with traditional wainscoting

That is Thibault Etosha wallpaper.  I don’t know the price, but anything from Thibault is generally out of my price range, so I’ll probably end up having to hand paint a design inspired by this wallpaper.  And yes…wainscoting too.  I’ve said time and again that I wouldn’t consider wainscoting in the breakfast room since the ceiling is so low, but I’ve changed my mind.  I’m a woman, so I’m allowed to do that.  Often.  😀

Oh, and the best thing?  Matt loves it!  When I showed him the picture, his response was, “Wow!  Now that’s classy!”

I’ve looked for a stencil online that I could use, but I can’t find one I like.  All of the zebra print stencils I’ve found are way too small, too busy, and the repetition of the pattern is very obvious.  But I’m not opposed to tedious work, especially if I can end up with walls as gorgeous as the ones above.

Here are a few more rooms with neutral zebra striped walls.

Thibault Etosha wallpaper - nursery designed by Sarah RichardsonNursery designed by Sarah Richardson

Neutral zebra striped walls -- teen bedroom designed by Galeana, via HouzzTransitional Kids by San Antonio Interior Designers & Decorators GALEANA

Neutral zebra striped walls - Kitchen designed by New England Design Works, via HouzzTransitional Kitchen by Manchester Kitchen & Bath Designers New England Design Works

Neutral zebra striped walls - bathroom from Blake Development Corporation, via HouzzBeach Style Bathroom by Philadelphia Home Builders Blake Development Corporation

I’m really loving this new direction.  It keeps my breakfast room light and bright.  It’s neutral, but it’s not boring neutral.  Matt loves it.  My mom won’t cringe and/or cry when she comes for a visit.  And most importantly, there’s no risk of it “sucking the life” out of my colorful kitchen.  😀

So the next question will be, “When are you going to stop talking about it, and start working on it?!”  Right?

Well, Matt and I are trying to decide just how we’re going to go about it.  The floor alone, with leveling the concrete, putting down subfloor, installing hardwood, and finishing the hardwood, will cost about $5000.  That’s just for the floor.  In one room.  That’s a lot of money when we’re still living without an HVAC system.

And then the walls and ceiling need drywall.  I thought maybe I’d be up for doing it myself, and I even bought a really inexpensive drywall lift on Amazon so that I could tackle it on my own.  But quite honestly, the thought makes me want to cry.  I don’t know why I’m so overwhelmed with it, but I am.

But about four days ago, I pulled into the Home Depot parking lot and parked.  The truck right next to me was a remodeling company, and one of their services listed was drywall.  As the guy was walking to his truck, I stopped him and talked to him about the breakfast room.  Based on the measurements I gave him, he gave me a very rough ballpark estimate of about $500 to drywall, tape, and mud the walls and ceiling.  That’s 1/5 of the first company’s estimate!!!  And it’s also way more in line with what many of you told me it should cost.

That gives me so much hope that I can have pros do it, rather than doing it myself!!  So he’ll be coming out soon (hopefully this week) to look at it and give me a real estimate.  If his ballpark estimate was really in the ballpark, I’ll schedule him ASAP and get this room underway.

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  1. My first reaction, upon reading your post at fb, was “uh-oh,” but when I saw these pictures, I’m like… “WOW!” “Want!” Thanks for sharing Kristi

  2. Not that you want to buy any more toys/tools (or maybe you do 🙂 ), but i wonder if one of those vinyl cutting machines that they make for paper crafters (like this: would allow you to make your own stencil. Or, I wonder if you could find someone on Etsy that could make you a custom stencil for a reasonable price based on a design you sketch for them. It’d be way easier than hand-painting, I’d imagine.

    1. I kind of knew that somebody would suggest this!! with all these stenceling plans, you won’t get away without using your Silhouette, Kristi 🙂 I’m fairly sure that you’ll love it, but it takes some time and effort to get used to all the possibilities it offers. I know, because I’ve finally jumped right in and am making very nice Christmas presents at the mo. I haven’t yet tackled a stencil, let alone a big one, so lets see who gets there first and can help the other one with it (if it’s me, I’ll promise to send you a tutorial via email as I don’t have a blog…)
      I’m not one for animal prints but can see why you are drawn to this version, so I’m really curious about the results!!

  3. Hi Kristi,
    I have to admit that I do agree with your mom and Matt. I don’t mind the black neither but it would be too powerful beside your lovely kitchen. I love the zebra pattern too. I have faith in you that you will do magic. I think you are on the right path and can’t wait to see the result. I love the way you work around your project by doing some research and see what is popping out from it. For the drywall, wow lucky you! Anyway good luck and keep on sharing! 🙂

  4. Love the new direction of the breakfast room. My first thought was of the striped floor that didn’t work. These colors are close to that floor, so I’m wondering how that will work. Perhaps the same direction but something that ties in with the kitchen or complements it? Whatever you do, it will work out. Keeping my fingers crossed for a good drywall connection and price.

    1. That first one from Cutting Edge Stencils is one that I found also. See how small and busy it looks? And the repeat is just so plainly obvious.

      BUT…that last one! Amazing! I don’t like the small size, but the size options go up to 36″ x 36″!! WOW! Thanks so much for finding that for me! That could very well be what I’m looking for, and would certainly save me tons of time.

      1. I got really excited for you as well when I noticed you can go up in size! I cant wait to see it finished I always love your rooms!

  5. I’ll admit I too had the “uh-oh” response to the title, but WOW, I am totally loving the neutral tone on tone zebra stripe. I think it’ll look amazing!!!

  6. OMG!!! Loving the neutral zebra walls!!!!! They are to die for!!! You will make the room look outstanding. Waiting to hear all the details and see the work 🙂

  7. I liked the black idea, but agree with your mother that the room was too small to be painted such a dark color. Glad she has talked you out of it! As for the zebra, I love it. From a distance, it looks like a chevron print gone awry. Perhaps you could find a chevron stencil and adapt it?

  8. Yep, after reading your post I started looking at the stencils. Not quite like the wallpaper. If you can get your hands on the large stencil mylar material I think it would be a lot quicker and look almost as good as doing by hand or depending on the stencil maybe even better! Definitely create your own design then its your statement for sure!.

  9. Kristi

    I love your new direction. You have a knack of coming up with great ideas. Bet you could “blow up” your inspiration photo to make yourself a stencil.

    I used to do custom stenciling for people. Often they wanted part of an oriental rug design or fabric stenciled onto their walls to coordinate the whole room. I would trace the designs, then go to the copy store to enlarge the designs to a size that I thought was appropriate. I loved the creative process. Because I would make multiple copies of each stencil, I used an electric stencil cutting tool. I don’t know if they are made anymore, but you might check into it. If you are unable to find these, contact me “off list”…..I would be happy to gift my electric cutter to you.

  10. I love the idea of the neutrals! I have never been a fan of all the hub bub over animal prints as they seemed so jarring when done in a large space. However I must say that the zebra pattern in neutrals is wonderful. The idea for having a stencil made occurred to me as well. I can’t wait to see the final outcome.

  11. Mandy at vintage revivals blog has done some interesting wall effects with sharpies over paint to free hand a very specfic look. Don’t know if it would work for zebra pattern (wide waves and not lines) but I thought it seemed like such an interesting idea if you used the inverse of a stencil and draw the shapes to be filled in later with paint.

    I miss the black wall idea, only for purely selfish reasons because I know you would have done it well..however, agree with your family that it could have ended up cave-like and not show off the green kitchen.

  12. I love the new idea. In fact I may need to wallpaper my guest bath and it will definately be a neutral zebra print. That being said, do yourself a favor and get an hvac unit. Texas summers are brutal.

  13. How about a black and white zebra stencil? Would that be too dark or dramatic? How will the lighter beige zebra print tie in with the kitchen?

    I too would check out that drywaller, get some references, and get a WRITTEN estimate and contract for the job.

    Just sayin’!

  14. Ah-ha! I knew you’d go lighter in there. I saw it coming with your color/sophistication post. The new plan is still sophisticated and very “you.” Will you change your fireplace plans? I love the monochromatic color scheme with pops of an accent color. Could you use painters tape to create your pattern?

  15. Hi Kristi,

    Not sure how off your floors are, but have you looked into self-leveling concrete? I only say this because my husband and I just went through leveling our floors in our kitchen (yeah, try cooking an egg on a griddle in my house…). Ours were off by two-plus inches, so we had to pour a bit of a new slab with the help of some friends who do concrete work. They did a great job, but we should have troweled it one more time after they left. A couple days later, though, to finish it off, we added a layer of self-leveling on top and it was awesome. We mixed that up, just him and I, and it went so easily.

    Self-leveling concrete isn’t cheap, but I didn’t know where it stacked up in comparison to your labor estimates.

    After the self-leveling, we added the foam layer and then our engineered hardwoods, and I’m so happy with how it turned out.

  16. Your mom may have saved you some trouble but I really have faith that if the black walls did not work you would have turned it around. And then you could have advised us how to prime and paint over black . . .

  17. I love reading your posts. I change my mind about the same as you do and people think I’m crazy. All my projects are half done. Keep up the great work and you’re funny.

    Houzz and Pinterest are great. You are energetic.

    PS…I lost weight before with HCG. I looked and felt great. Then, I returned to terrible eating. And yes, you do gain weight just like anyone who eats terrible does. It’s known for pain relief as well (Dr. David Tennnant).

    Ignore any ugly comments people have…they are dumb.

  18. I am not one to like animal prints, but if they are done in an unconventional color palette that’s neutral yet pretty I’m all for it. This is exactly what I’ve found myself drawn to. Is it weird that I have entertained the idea of the same pattern on the walls of my master bedroom but (for my room and taste) putting it in with fluttery and ethereal shades of lavender, silvers and grays? lol Long story short- I really dig that pattern. It’s gorgeous, elegant and if anyone can pull it off you can. Who Knows? Maybe it will inspire me to do something to my master. 😀

  19. I too was looking forward to black walls just to see someone be braver that me, but I love the idea of the neutrals. The examples you provided are beautiful. Another thought would be to use the stencil you previously planned in similar lighter, neutral colors? You could still do flat and glossy finish with that pattern to get a not boring beautiful look. Whatever you do, I’m sure will look fantastic! Bravo to the power of changing our minds whenever we want.

  20. I am crazy about those neutral zebra print walls. They will look perfect in the breakfast room. Great idea. I am totally with you on drywalling. Bern there, done it, will pay someone to do it next time. I would get the heating and sir conditioning done. You and Matt will be so much more comfortable in Texas-in the summer or winter. It will give you more energy.
    I have wondered about taking a few weeks to get your garage-workshop set up so you can keep part if the construction out of the house. Just thinking about completing area at a time and what could make your life easier. Now, I am going to look into the neutral zebra for my living room!

  21. I’m so happy with your new direction! I just thought that black was to much, when the room had so little light anyway.

  22. Love, Love, Love. Dramatic in a totally different way. It will be light and airy and mix well with all your metals and any other colors you want to add. I think you might owe Bridget a drink for finding those last two stencils.

  23. I’m so relieved! Its not that I hate the idea of black walls but I was fearful that the black would overpower the beautiful kitchen and make the room much darker than you wanted it.

    I do like the ideas you are thinking about. I never would’ve thought about doing a light colored zebra wall but I like it. Great idea.

    I wonder if this contracor you talked to would also give you another estimate on your flooring project that would be more in alighment with your budget? Just a thought.

    Full speed ahead!

  24. I LOVE THIS! I wasn’t overly thrilled with the black, but you’ve pulled off other things that I thought impossible (a rich green kitchen for one) so I didn’t trust myself to buck your desire for black. Your Mom put it very well and I agree with her 100% on black sucking the life out of the kitchen!

  25. Oh Kristi, I’m so glad that you chose to listen to your mom! Like Matt, I wouldn’t say anything negative about your choices, but that new idea is Awesome! And Matt is right on….it’s classy! You can make your own stencils by using a piece of plastic and a wood-burning tool to cut out areas as well. How ever you do it I’m sure it will be beautiful.

    Your story reminded me of my mom’s first visit to the 100+ year old 2 family home I bought when I was 30 and still single. She walked into the kitchen…looked up and down at the wallpaper, and said “I’m not even having a cup of coffee in this room until this paper comes down! She proceeded to tear down the God Awful, yellow, orange, & brown PLAID wallpaper!

  26. I too am glad you have opted out of the black walls. They can be very attractive, however I never saw your vision for your home in TX. Usually very upscale big city condos or homes can pull it off, but I think the rest of us, our excellent taste not withstanding, would be hard pressed to make it work in our average American homes. I still love the idea of black doors in some areas, and am happy with what I have done in my home, but black walls in a breakfast room, never appealed to me. I love the new idea although not an animal print person. My only concern, having read your blog since you were starting your kitchen, is how you will manage with the neutral look. You have such an appetite for color, but I guess if you go neutral on the walls you could go colorful with a rug. There certainly are some beautiful ones on sites like OKL, Wayfair, etc. The neural walls certainly will work well with your table, in fact I think they will make a beautiful place for dining. As someone else suggested, make sure you check references and work by the contractor you met. Putting up the drywall is the difficult part, maybe, since you are so good at it, you could do the taping and mudding. I would think that is the most important part of the job as far as finished look. Hope it all goes well and according to plan for you. Blessings

  27. I think you should freehand paint it on fabric (canvas or even drapery lining) then install it (with starch- so easy). You are an awesome painter, and the ramdomness of freehanding it would only add to it’s beauty. Plus, the fabric would give it such an edge. And- if you decide to change your mind, and switch it up for a while, you can just peel it off, and roll it up for safe keeping until you want to rehang it!!!!! Win, win!

    1. Lisa, I totally agree with you about the starch treament. No muss, no fuss and with Kristi’s talent, it will be easy peasy. Go for it, Kristi!

  28. OMG! Love this idea! I’m starting to winder if I can pull this off in my own home! I’m usually an all safe neutrals kind of person lol

  29. I love this idea. With that being said you could possibly get a discount for the drywall by advertising the company who does the work. I mean this is a great place to rustle up business! Good luck and I love all your ideas.

  30. So glad you are going in this direction instead. I love the idea of the black walls, but next to the dark green cabinets of your kitchen I was afraid it would just be too much. We should always listen to our mommas! 🙂 I also wanted to thank you for showing us your 3D painting you made for the condo. I just got finished making one and it was so easy due to your directions!

  31. I am a new reader to your blog, but have read back posts and caught up. I love your new kitchen and while you would have the black wall looking beautiful, the lighter colors are going to give your kitchen an elegant and timeless beauty. Enjoy.

  32. I wasn’t sure how I felt about the totally black walls, but I was willing to go with it because I always LOVE the outcome of your work. But I have to say the second you said zebra striped, I could picture it and I instantly thought that would be beautiful!

    My only question is are you really planning on going beige/white striped or will it be black/white zebra stripes? I like both, but I think the black/white would really pop next to your kitchen.

  33. Hi Kristi,

    You have made amazing progress. I just love everything about your condo, especially the new bedroom decor. The curtains look fabulous -very creative. I think you will be happier with your new home once you get some of your favourite colours throughout. We have been renovating and redecorating. We have used white trim and a neutral beige paint throughout which is pretty bland but we have been able to add plenty of colour accents to bring it alive.

    Think you need a rest for a bit before you start the new year. Have a restful, Happy Christmas.


  34. I love black walls also but alas it doesn’t work in my home either. I haven’t given up that idea for the hall bath but I’m thinking it probably won’t work. What you’ve chosen is beautiful and much more complementary towards the kitchen. Wondering though if you aren’t gong a little faux wall finish overboard what with wanting the living room and the music room in a faux finish.

  35. i was thinking about your $5000. 00 floor. I’m sure the most expensive part is leveling the cement. How many estimates have you gotten? Have you talked to them about just shimming up the sub floor. You know there are different ways to do things that get the same results & may be more cost efficient. I know you could lay the floor yourself. Just keep getting estimates & referrals. I’m sure there is someone out there that can help you with your costs. Can’t wait to see you get started.

    1. i agree…get lots of 2nd opinions..:)..i was wondering if any of these companies would give a better price if they knew their company name would be on your blog…sort of an advertisement…not sure how that works tho…there are so many rules in the world now….it might be breaking one…

  36. I actually really liked the black on black wall idea. The neutral zebra is nice, but in my mind it’s too similar to the white herring bone tile with beige grout that you have in the kitchen. Plus I don’t think that your kitchen should or will be the only star in your house. Rather I think all rooms will be stars in their own right, creating together an exquisite mosaic of master pieces…

  37. i sure wish I could win the lottery! Not for me, but because I would give it to you so you could finish your house! Because I can’t wait to see your house finished!!!

  38. I would say even $500 is steep, but I dont know prices in texas. I paid $300 to have my living room ceiling (over 600 sq ft), master bedroom wall (130 sq ft) and a corner in my master bathroom (probably on a handful of sq ft). The work done was excellent and quick. I tried my hand at drywall later on and I will honestly say I loathe it. But I had a situation similar to yours. I had one company quote me $8000 for the same work I paid $300 for. They wanted $5 to take down a curtain rod (spring) and another $5 to put it back up. Then $50 to move the toilet from the bathroom so it wouldnt “get dirty” then another $50 to move it back… Plus $3 per tool per day to “sanitize” the tools because there was a little green mold in the master bathroom (roof had been bad I had it replaced, the mold was less than 1 sq foot and just normal green mold from the leaking roof). Which wouldnt even matter once they pulled the old drywall out. They also wanted $600 for a “large specialty fan” and the euiqpment to “seal off the master bath” because apparently that small patch of green mold was the next strain of the black plague or something in their eyes. All in all the bill was the most ridiculous $8000 itemized list I have ever seen. I had the next company come in and give me the $300 quote (licensed and bonded company) and they also refered me to a great plumber to replace my hot water heater.

    Sadly some people just dont know better and its a very sexist world when it comes to renovations and improvements. Sometimes they see a woman and think “chaching” because they assume we dont know any better. Whats even worse is that these companies are still in business because they are making money off someone…

  39. Is it okay to say I was relieved when I read the title? I have been scared of those black walls you wanted from the beginning! I know that there seem like a lot of windows in that room, but it never felt super bright in there since they were only on the farther, shorter walls. I agree with your mom that it would have sucked the energy out of that room and the kitchen. I can see the beauty of black walls in a room, but she’s right…not that one. I think the zebra neutral will be lovely and make the green look the way it should!

  40. omg Kristi! You seriously read my mind on a weekly basis. Scary how much our tastes are aligned! I stumbled across the same inspiration pic about 8 months ago and fell in LOVE with the idea for my hallway. I spent hours searching for the perfect stencil….which has sat unused since I purchased it, but you are inspiring me to finally get up and tackle the project! Anyway, here’s the stencil I’m using…As far as I can tell, it’s a VERY close match and the scale is EXACTLY that of the Thibaut wallpaper!…P.S. I researched the wallpaper as well; you can purchase it for around $100 per roll…I;ll stick with the $39 stencil!

  41. I have been eyeing a zebra print from another wallpaper company but it looks very similar to the one you’ve posted. You might want to check it out, their website is It’s the Christel line. I believe I picked it up at the Sherwin Williams store and it runs $50-60 for a double roll. Lmk what you think, Morena

  42. Im with your Mom and Matt…dont do anything to take away from that beautiful kitchen…sometimes i get on your blog just to pull it up and look at it…to me its just stunning..

  43. Kristi … Hopefully not too lae with this comment. I also love this paper and found it at a bargain price at Steve’s Blinds and Wallpaper. Used it in my entry and it is fabulous. I get lots of ooh’s & ahh’s when guests arrive. Mine is dark tan with black (like a tiger) but will be purchasing it in gray/white for my next home where I will be going in a more countrified drection!

    Will be following your directions to ceruse my dining table, also! Can’t wait to see it finished!